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Agriculture Today

‘The government didn’t build our ranch’

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Guest Editorial
June 12, 2013 | 4,289 views | Post a comment

By Joe Parker Jr.

“Where’s the screwdriver?” Someone hadn’t put it back on top of our old refrigerator. That screwdriver was the only way to pry the refrigerator door open since the handle had broken a few years before. Our father had wanted to buy another refrigerator, but our mother said “no” since the calves didn’t weigh as much as expected that year and money was tight.

Remembering those lean years back in the early 1960s, we are reminded, “The government didn’t build our ranch.”

Sitting on the end of the loading chute with his legs hanging over the front and the hot west sun burning his face, our dad sighed and choked as the dust blew back over the top of him from the last cattle truck pulling out. He estimated the numbers through his mind of 20 cents a pound times 500 pounds a head on the steers. He expected $100 per head, but the heifers didn’t weigh nearly that much. “Maybe the bank will extend part of the land payment,” he thought.

Remembering those lean times back in the 1960s, we are reminded, “The government didn’t build our ranch.”

I heard my dad tell my mother as we were headed home from church one Sunday, “You know, I know I’m supposed to see the face of Jesus when I pray, but when I close my eyes to pray, all I see is my banker’s face.” After four of the driest years on record in our area, it finally started to rain in 1957. Was the banker starting to look like Jesus? The resemblance was not close.

Remembering those dry years back in the 1950s, we are reminded, “The government didn’t build our ranch.”

I consider my growing up years from 1951 to 1965. After all, I was grown, in mind, by the age of 14, and I had a hardship driver’s license. We started farming some of our land in 1965, and if we weren’t in school we got to work all day grubbing mesquites and at night we would plow. The whole family worked on the ranch. Our mother was the housewife and the bookkeeper.

Remembering those family working days, we are reminded, “The government didn’t build our ranch.”

When I think about all the tough times that our family overcame in order to make it in the ranching business, I can’t help but wonder why on earth an elected official would assume that the government helped us build our business? How dare that official presume we couldn’t have built our ranch without the government’s help?

Does the government help build our ranch by restricting our development of water storage ponds? Does the government help build our ranch by restricting the amount of dust allowed on our roads and our cattle handling facilities? Does the government help build our ranch by blaming the rancher for the water contaminants rather than the wildlife?

How about after years of family sacrifice in order to make land payments to fulfill the dream of actually owning the land, you find out during the saddest days of your life after your father and mother have died, that you have to pay for that land all over again at an inflated price? The government sure didn’t build our businesses or our ranches with death taxes.

We produce beef on our ranch. Beef is meat. Can you imagine an administration that has USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] employees call for “Meatless Mondays”? So what if they were told not to say that anymore? Can you imagine hiring and keeping employees with that mindset in the agency in charge of food production and marketing?

The history of the United States of America has always been to work for the control of spending, control of deficits, control of taxes, and the control of the economy through limited government. Today that government wants to control your health, your guns, your businesses, and your investments through an expanded welfare state.

The next time your family is together and you have time to drive or ride around on your ranch, look out across the pastures toward the horizon and think back about all that has been done to develop and maintain your ranch. Ask your family, “Who do you think built this ranch?” Did your family, by the grace of God, build your ranch or did the government?

Joe Parker Jr. is a third-generation rancher from Clay County, Texas. He is president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

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